Businesses urged to engage and rethink Main Street
by Priya Gulraj
Over 500 of Gibraltar’s local businesses and stakeholders have this week been meeting with the Mosaic Partnership to share what their priorities are for Main Street.

This data will be collected and analysed and presented in a new Business Improvement District (BID) scheme for the Rock next year.

Earlier this year the scheme was commissioned by the Gibraltar Federation for Small Businesses in order to give a boost to Gibraltar’s economy.

“Our initial impressions in Gibraltar and Main Street are to work out what you are and who you appeal to,” Mo Aswat, director at The Mosaic Partnership, said.

“There is some tension between the locals and tourists and when we think in terms of a High Street or a town centre, it is sometimes hard to put a finger to find out who it is serving.”

“We are trying to get information from local businesses and find out what their business priorities are, and what their priorities for Main Street in general are.”

Among the concerns raised with Mr Aswat and his colleague, Sue McGeown, have been the challenges faced by smaller businesses when it comes to marketing and promotion.

Retail shops are looking to increase footfall and “capture retail spend” in order to attract those turning to online shopping, while offices are looking for more long-term investment such as improving the aesthetics of their buildings and making “a more pleasant place for their clients and employees”.

On the other hand, restaurants and “the evening economy” are looking for support in infrastructure such as improved street lighting and parking facilities in order to attract a more diversified clientele, Mr Aswat said.

“If you look at a BID in broader terms, you have to think of it as who to market to and who to promote it to, such as events,” he added.

“At the moment there are parts of Main Street which are great and have great public furniture and then there are parts which look more tired.”

Mr Aswat said that BIDs in other parts of the world have succeeded in influencing government policy, with knock-on benefits for both business and the economy.

In Gibraltar, some of the things that small businesses can do is to come together “as one unit” for waste management and recycling initiatives, or a joint marketing campaign including events to promote goods and services.

“My sense around Main Street is that it is somewhere that has been successful and has a real entrepreneurial spirit, but it has done things in a particular way for a long period of time,” Mr Aswat said.

“There is probably a mind shift that needs to take place about what is happening in town centres and high streets in the UK.”

“You haven’t quite suffered in the way the people in the UK have, but you can see that trajectory potentially happening here.”

“And it is whether people understand that and do something about that now before things can get dire.”

During his stay on the Rock, Mr Aswat has been speaking to businesses, business stakeholders such as the GFSB and the Chamber of Commerce, the Minister for Business Vijay Daryanani and the GSD’s Roy Clinton and Damon Bossino.

Over the next couple of months, the team will “just be talking to businesses” and a business plan will be presented next March.

To be included in the BID, businesses would have to pay a “bid levy” which is based on floor space and then be able to vote to approve the BID in June 2020.

A very small business is likely to pay an annual fee of around £200 to £300 to be a part of the BID.

“What we really want to say to the businesses is that what they will get back is much greater,”

Mr Aswat said.

“Looking at similar size towns in the UK, for every £1 the business puts in they are able to get £3 in return.”

“The big advantage for Gibraltar is that the Government is willing to match the amount raised pound by pound what the businesses raise for the BID scheme.”

“What the data so far has shown us is that we have the potential to raise £500,000 a year to do the work that it needs to do and involves around 500 businesses.”

Over the next couple of months, the team will “just be talking to businesses” across Casemates, Main Street, Irish Town and the side streets and present a business plan next March.